Mercedes Benz's electric cars are provided for car sharing as part of a smart city project at Kashiwanoha YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

Can Smart Cities Be Equitable?

For urban planners, data and technology are valuable tools in the drive to improve administration and services. But while these innovations are making urban environments more livable, they come with a hidden cost: the potential to deepen inequality among digitally marginalized groups.

WASHINGTON, DC/SAN FRANCISCO – Around the world, governments are making cities “smarter” by using data and digital technology to build more efficient and livable urban environments. This makes sense: with urban populations growing and infrastructure under strain, smart cities will be better positioned to manage rapid change.

But as digital systems become more pervasive, there is a danger that inequality will deepen unless local governments recognize that tech-driven solutions are as important to the poor as they are to the affluent.

While offline populations can benefit from applications running in the background of daily life – such as intelligent signals that help with traffic flows – they will not have access to the full range of smart-city programs. With smartphones serving as the primary interface in the modern city, closing the digital divide, and extending access to networks and devices, is a critical first step.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/rnmF7RG;

Handpicked to read next

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.